NASA satellites break from orbit around the earth and head for the moon


Wellington, New Zealand (AP) — A satellite about the size of a microwave oven is out of orbit around the Earth and heading for the Moon on Monday. This is the latest step in NASA’s plans to re-land the astronauts on the Moon.

It has been Unusual journey Already for the Capstone satellite. Six days ago, Rocket Lab launched one of the smaller electron rockets from the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. Since the satellite cruises with minimal energy, it will take another four months for the satellite to reach the moon.

Rocket Lab founder Peter Beck said it’s hard to put his excitement into the Associated Press.

“It will probably take a while to sink. It took us a couple of years and a half and it was an incredibly difficult project to carry out,” he said. “So it’s just spectacular to see the spaceship heading towards the moon, all together tonight.”

According to Beck, the relatively low cost of the mission (NASA $ 32.7 million) marks the beginning of a new era of space exploration.

“For tens of millions of dollars, we have rockets and spacecraft that can reach the Moon, asteroids, Venus, and Mars,” Beck said. “This is an insane feature that never existed before.”

If the rest of the mission is successful, the Capstone satellite will send back important information for several months as the first to take a new orbit around the moon, called the nearly linear halo orbit. Pass near the moon and far away from the moon.

Ultimately, NASA plans to place a space station, called a gateway, in orbit. From this orbit, astronauts can descend to the moon as part of the Artemis program.

According to Beck, the advantage of the new orbit is that it minimizes fuel usage and allows satellites (or space stations) to stay in contact with the Earth at all times.

The Electron rocket, launched from New Zealand on June 28, was carrying a second spacecraft called Photons, which separated nine minutes later. The satellite was carried by photons for six days, and the spacecraft’s engine ignited regularly, raising its orbit from Earth.

The last engine burst on Monday allowed Photons to escape the Earth’s gravitational pull and send satellites along the way. The current plan is for a 25-kilogram (55-pound) satellite to go well beyond the Moon before returning to its new lunar orbit on November 13. The satellite uses a small amount of fuel to make some modifications to the planned orbital course. How to do it.

Beck said he would complete the task and decide in the next few days what to do with photons that still have a small amount of fuel left in the tank.

“There are a lot of really cool missions we can actually do with it,” Beck said.

For the mission, NASA has collaborated with two for-profit companies: California-based Rocket Lab and Colorado-based Advanced Space own and operate Capstone satellites.